We need to teach women to declare their ambitions and to present their brand
To drive the diversity agenda at American Express, we have embraced the concept of sponsorship. While one can ask for a mentor, one needs to earn a sponsor. A sponsor is an advocate, a person that will promote your growth and help you make those career leaps. We use sponsorship as a true talent management tool. We have leaders who are grooming the next generation of talent (both women and men) through sponsorship.
We have workshops for both women and men to create pathways to sponsorship, but we also have a program that is specifically for women, because we recognize that women are earning it at a lower rate than men.
There are two factors that lead to lack of sponsorship - brand and ambition. Executive presence, the notion of how you communicate, and the leadership you display, factor in the creation of your brand as a professional. Ambition is the way you declare it, the way you make people aware of your aspirations. Men seem to be better than women at both brand and aspiration so we need to teach women to declare their ambitions and present their brand. Eventually these are the factors that will determine whether or not you will earn the opportunity of sponsorship, and once achieved, organizations obtain a level playing field.
Like many working mothers, I have got strategies that have helped me in keeping the proverbial balance. In order for me to be good at what I am doing, I have to be able to focus. When I am with you I am really with you and not thinking about other things happening in my life, or feeling guilty about them. This is also true when I am at home with my four-year-old daughter playing little people, I am with her, I am not checking my Blackberry, I am not worried about other things. Applying that focus has given me a coping strategy that seems to be working for me.